Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Ballharambe-weekend wrap up
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Arsene Wenger’s youthful investment has come of age. Arsenal defeated a Chelsea team that is in a state of disarray. Wenger finally got it right in fielding a potent starting eleven. The out of form Arshavin was left on the bench and the youthful Djourou got the nod over the aging Squillaci. Up front, Arsenal had Nasri, Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott, Song and Wilshere. That is a combustible cluster and they showed their offensive prowess by scoring a goal in the first half and two in rapid succession in the second half. The Arsenal combinations were exquisite. Nasri to Song, Song to Wilshere and Song putting away the slick through ball in the back of the net.
In the second half, it was Theo Walcott outpacing the Chelsea defense and squaring to Fabregas to beat Chelsea’s goalkeeper. The third came from a Walcott solo.
Chelsea looks like a depressed team. All the key players except for Alex were back, Terry, Essien and Lampard. But a team that started out in scintillating form keeps making silly defensive errors and cannot find a way to break the goal drought.
Wenger’s Gunners are now ready for prime time. Wenger has to make Walcott a regular starter and build up his confidence. Arsenal is now able to put together a nucleus of creativity that will now make them serious contenders for the league title but at the half-way mark my money is on Manchester United.
Manchester United vs. Sunderland
Sunderland has made marked improvement this season and it was anticipated that they would be a formidable foe for Manchester United. But the Manchester United machine has begun to gel. The back four with Vidic, Ferdinand, Raphael and Evra are the most impregnable in the league. Anderson has moved his game up another notch this season and the chemistry that he has developed with Rooney and Berbatov readily shatters defensive units. Berbatov has emerged as one of the better strikers in the English Premier League. Rooney has returned from his injury and even though he is not scoring goals, is back on top form.
Manchester United is at the top of the roost in the Premier League. Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham will be coming at them but Sir Alex seems to be able to get his team to rise to the occasion and as long as the principals stay healthy, they will be the team to beat.
Manchester City vs. Newcastle
Manchester City is having difficulty maintaining team harmony off the field but there is no question about their team solidarity on the field. Tevez wanted a transfer but apparently he and club officials have kissed and made up.
Mansini must be given credit as a coach in the way Manchester City now plays as a unit. As a coach, Mancini is still too defensive but there are players like Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, De Jong who have thrived under him. January will lead to a parade of departures but he should have enough players in his arsenal to be a serious contender for the championship.
Tottenham vs. Aston Villa
Martin Atkinson sending off of Spurs’ striker, Defoe, in the 27th minute was incredibly injudicious. Defoe had raised his arm for a contested ball in the air and the referee immediately issued a red card. Tottenham held on with ten men to beat the non-creative Aston Villa. Bale, Lennon, Modric and Van der Vaart are a delight on attack. Van der Vaart certainly has proven his worth to Tottenham and Bale and Lennon are proving impossible to contain. Tottenham has now got to be recognized as an elite team in the English Premier League.
The race for the league title will go down to the wire as the non-elite teams are capable of beating the top contenders any day of the week. How teams prepare for their opponents and the savvy nature of the coaching staff will become increasingly critical down the stretch.